Surviving Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly. For the vast majority of people, this tends not to be the case and it turns into the season to be stressed out, put on un-wanted weight and become depressed.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spoken to dozens of people who have been working very hard on their training and nutrition with the intention of being in good shape for Christmas.

The majority of them are very happy with the results of their hard work and yet they seem resigned to the fact that it’s all going to go down the drain before the start of January. They speak as if Cruel Fate is going to take complete control of their decision-making ability, handcuff them to the armchair in front of the tv, and force endless amounts of cake, sweets, chocolate and alcohol down their throat.

I’m not saying for one minute that there is anything wrong with having some down-time from regular training or enjoying some sugar-filled or intoxicating treats. It’s traditional at times of celebration that alcohol and high-calorie food take centre stage and there will always be a certain amount of over-indulgence. As the saying goes, Seldom is Wonderful. However 2 or 3 solid weeks of this can be very hard work.

Today’s article is not aimed at those who are determined to test the limits of their capacity for sugar and booze. Hopefully it will be give some ideas to those of you who want to enjoy Christmas with minimal damage to your waistline.

1. Plan Ahead
In most cases, we have plenty of notice about the parties and family get-togethers we’ll be attending during Christmas. Scientific research and my own experience with clients indicates that people make bad food decisions when they’re hungry and they’ll tend to opt for high-calorie and high-sugar foods. In situations where you know there’ll be nothing but “treats” available, a very simple strategy of having a meal packed with vegetables and protein before you attend will help avoid over-indulgence. If a full meal is provided at the event, pack up on the meat and veg and don’t leave too much room for dessert!

2. Take control
People tend to feel better about themselves when they feel in control of as many aspects of their lives as possible. When it comes to food, nobody eats anything by accident. It can be challenging in social situations to eat moderately when all around you seem to be eating as if the Great Famine is on the way back. However, if you politely, but firmly, explain that you’ve eaten your fill and don’t need anymore, you can avoid the peer pressure that is often the cause of un-necessary calories being consumed.

3. Give your liver a chance
I enjoy alcohol but I absolutely detest hangovers. In order to get the most from the booze with the minimum of negative consequences, I’ve learned to slow down. Having a glass or 2 of water in between alcoholic drinks reduces your consumption of alcohol while also allowing your liver to cope with this “poison.” It also minimizes the chances of your out-of-control drunken antics ending up on Facebook or Instagram.

4. Keep Moving
If you’re unfortunate enough to be “dying” of a hangover, remember that there’s a more effective “curer” than simply topping-up with more of what put you in that state in the first place. Exercising just enough to work up a sweat is an effective way of getting the alcohol out of the system and helping you feel human again. A walk at a reasonably brisk pace will do the trick. Some less intense exercise over the holiday period is a great way of burning a few calories, while also giving you some physical and psychological recovery from your more strenuous training sessions.

5. Avoid Boredom
During Christmas many people over-eat when they’re either bored or stressed. In some cases, avoiding family members will solve both of these problems. Do your best to remember that it’s a time that’s meant to be enjoyed. There are plenty of things you can do to unwind that don’t revolve around food and drink: read a book, listen to your favourite music, watch a great movie or play some board games with family or friends. Reduced stress levels are always a good thing.

Finally, I’d like to wish everybody a Safe and Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year.

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